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Subject: Loving The Others rss

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Martina Frohme
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Loving the Others

Some people dig horror themes, others don’t. Tastes differ, and that is a good thing.

Some gamers find no joy in the horror genre and think that some of the games currently available go a step too far. After all, gaming is meant to be fun, and not experiencing any fun looking at death, decay and degeneration is a very healthy reaction. Attempting to force people into it, blackmailing them with the prospect of continued ridicule for being wimpy, is inacceptable.

So, is having fun with horror games an unhealthy thing? It’s… complicated.

I enjoy games with a supernatural and fantasy theme. I would wear a Cthulhu T-shirt if it was given to me. I would not necessarily buy one. “Flavour” is, well, not everything, but it contributes a great deal to the way you experience your gameplay by generating a certain mood and attitude.

I enjoy games that draw their fascination from e. g. a gas-lit 19th century setting that depicts a past where science was looked at askance and the line between empirical facts, folklore and imagination was still thin. Those games add a historical touch to the experience when you learn about ideas that distinguish our 21st century mind-sets from those of our forebears.

And, yes, there are horror games I would not touch because they concentrate too much on the theme for the theme’s sake. They remind me of movies where a weak plot is a mere excuse for adding one special effect on top of the other.

Games like e.g. The Others, they are a very different matter. In The Others you take a stand against the Deadly Sins, presented to you in the form of truly abhorrent and disgusting artwork of the highest artistic standard. No squinting sideways here: A single glance - and you are going to have the picture imprinted in your memory forever. And there are sickening mutants, too, corrupted by the influence of sheer evil. The point is, you are meant to not like them. You are actually meant to find them as off-putting and hateful as possible.

And this is something I truly like about The Others: Evil is in no way romanticized. No falling for the attraction of a handsome vampire here. In my opinion it is humanly impossible to feel anything but disgust and opposition towards the incorporations of evil that are depicted in The Others. And this is how it should be. Evil is put in its place. Its true nature is exposed where it lifts its ugly head.

As an aside and between the lines: For any artist it hast to be an enormous challenge to create a piece of work that people both instinctively abhor for its looks and its meaning and at the same time enjoy and admire for its artistic quality. This alone is enough to make The Others unique in my eyes. But there is more.

Some hero characters would easily qualify as abominations in any other game.

Wanting to play these characters and identifying with them is not so easy. People reject the game because they are opposed to playing “monsters” and feel the line between good and evil is too blurry. They would rather fight them than play and therefore to some extent identify with them. And that much is true: You shudder at the thought of having them next to you, but the point is that, however you feel, they are just about human enough to accept them standing next to you and fighting side by side with humanity.

At this point, things get philosophical.

Those “monsters” you can play as heroes in the games are precious creations. It is easy to overlook their true quality when you put the game on the table, go through the mechanics and skim the data on the character cards.

It is sad that most people cannot enjoy the wonderful back stories that have been written to illustrate the game: The kickstarter edition comes with an art book that gives you a detailed impression of the whole concept of the game The Others and its creatures, containing narratives that better acquaint you with your playable characters, especially the not quite human ones. I confess I had my issues with them, too, at first. But they are creative inventions way, way beyond plastic and life points.

The first thing you learn is: Their DNA is part human, part the DNA of the Others. They are physically corrupted to a point where players feel a strong reservation towards taking them up. They are no heroes like Superman, even if they have super-human powers like Thorley’s super strength or Rose’s ability to slow down time while moving. They were genetically engineered by the agents of evil to open the gates for the Others, but they fled because they instinctively shrank back from evil when they first saw it. They helped each other escape and are extremely protective towards each other and towards anyone who is kind to them, to a point of self-sacrifice. They came to life physically mature, but otherwise they are just entering adolescence, grappling with new unfelt emotions and discovering their own powers and abilities. They are, literally, suffering from their respective conditions much in the way the Incredible Hulk does. They have human weaknesses too: Thorley needs reading glasses.

They identify with their human heritage and feel disgust at the Others just like the next guy. They like soap opera, enjoy fish and chunky chips, play board games - Thorley hast a passion for chess! - and love to go to the pub, hiding their otherness under hoods and long sleeves, because it is a place where they can have some social contact. They have a deep yearning for a normal life of which they have but a sketchy idea derived from TV shows they picked up on the run.

Having witnessed the devastation the Others wreaked, Thorley and Rose cannot help but feel a deep compassion towards those “poor humans” and feel compelled to join up with any human resistance they might be able to find. They have a common enemy, and they feel as drawn to the weaker humans as they are repelled by the Others. It is a rational, “enlightened” reaction to their experience of corruption, violence and destruction that expresses nothing different than philosopher Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. To them, stopping the Others and protecting humanity becomes an end in itself.

I quote Wikipedia: “According to Kant, human beings occupy a special place in creation, and morality can be summed up in an imperative, or ultimate commandment of reason, from which all duties and obligations derive. He defined an imperative as any proposition declaring a certain action (or inaction) to be necessary.” You could say this makes Thorley and his sister all human by choice, if not by nature: For them, siding with the Others is not even an option, because to them evil and destruction does not make any sense. They act according to Kant’s often quoted first maxim: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” This does not turn them into saints: They simply dislike being used and discarded like mere tools, and they want to be treated as individuals with a will and a conscience of their own. Still, the moral judgement holds: They are, by most definitions, the good (as humans go) guys.

Did the creators think of Kant? Did they want to teach us philosophy and hide a lesson in a board game? Of course not! (Although I would not put it entirely past them.) But they exist in a cultural context where, long after Kant and his contemporaries, the philosophy of enlightenment is still present and active. Apart from any other considerations, this is rather reassuring.

It is time to re-phrase an earlier statement: Wanting to play these characters and identifying with them is not easy but an exercise in tolerance. You learn to tolerate the characters, disregarding their ancestry and their appearance and accept them, limits and imperfections and all, for their thoughts and actions. We become more human by being more humane.

Now, wait a moment, you say, what is this all about? They are not real persons. They are just playable characters in a board game. But then, why did you have inhibitions when it came to playing them? Because you do identify with your playable character.

You do not want to be a monster in a game where monstrosity is taken so seriously. You want to be truly human, and this, intentionally or not, is the concept behind those “monstrous” half human characters. In real life you also are dealing with an evil part of your very nature which you have to constantly face and to strive to overcome, in order to become whatever your belief or philosophy says you truly ought to be.
The game The Others also shows you how tempting it is to give in or to choose an easier path and submit to corruption. It shows you that decisions that matter are not so simple and that, if you were expected to always be perfect and there was no tolerance of weakness and no forgiveness - you would not stand a chance.

However - being a Sin player in The Others is not everybody’s cup of tea because you cannot, and do not, want to identify with one of the Sins. It is certainly not a game for any game group. As a Sin player you cannot simply lean back and enjoy, you have to keep a healthy distance to your Sin character. Being a Sin player is a step that I, personally, would not be willing to take, but somebody in your game group will have to, and this is the main issue why I can still very well understand why somebody would not want to play The Others and finds no joy in taking part at all.

(For a more detailed article visit our website www.diceandmystics.de.)
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Bruno Gaia
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That's a really lovely write-up!
I love The Others.
And I adore being the Sin player too. :zombie:
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Judgement Dave
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Nice write up.

One very minor correction: the KS version did not come with the art book. The art book was a KS exclusive add on that had to be purchased.
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Martina Frohme
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Oops, yes, that is true. I should have paid more attention to how I phrased that. My edition did come with the art book, because I had added it to my order, of course. Thanks for pointing this out!
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Martina Frohme
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brunogaia wrote:
That's a really lovely write-up!
I love The Others.
And I adore being the Sin player too. zombie


And we all have to be grateful for those dedicated sin players, haven't we, for how else would we be able to play!
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Garganthua
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Great writing!
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Erik Hatinen
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Martina, your post focused well on the concept of the game and what players play and are against. But it leaves much to be desired from a review. I had several questions about the Others that were not answered by your review.

You don't mention if it takes a long time to set up, play or put away. I don't care too much about those things, but a great many do. How complicated is the game? Is it a strategy-heavy game, is it quick to figure out, are there are lot of things to keep track of? These are questions I pay a lot of attention to, but there aren't any right answers, as some people want a quick easy game and others want a lot of possibilities, and it's OK if that makes the game especially complicated.

I don't know how often you check out reviews or write them, but usually a review includes a few things they like and a few things they dislike about a game. I think you'd benefit from seeing what others do here.

In case it isn't clear, I think you made mistakes, but they're mistakes you made because of a lack of experience, not intelligence. I would never bring up philosophers in a post here! I would be quite interested in what you have to write or say about my questions, and that may well decide if I buy this game.
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This points out one thing i think is missing from this game. Story. It's chock full of theme and it's fun, engaging, (takes forever to play though) but very little story. Even in the campaigns...i wished they had more story bits. But maybe thats what the art book is for...
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Martina Frohme
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Tsallak wrote:
Martina, your post focused well on the concept of the game and what players play and are against. But it leaves much to be desired from a review. I had several questions about the Others that were not answered by your review.

You don't mention if it takes a long time to set up, play or put away. I don't care too much about those things, but a great many do. How complicated is the game? Is it a strategy-heavy game, is it quick to figure out, are there are lot of things to keep track of? These are questions I pay a lot of attention to, but there aren't any right answers, as some people want a quick easy game and others want a lot of possibilities, and it's OK if that makes the game especially complicated.

I don't know how often you check out reviews or write them, but usually a review includes a few things they like and a few things they dislike about a game. I think you'd benefit from seeing what others do here.

In case it isn't clear, I think you made mistakes, but they're mistakes you made because of a lack of experience, not intelligence. I would never bring up philosophers in a post here! I would be quite interested in what you have to write or say about my questions, and that may well decide if I buy this game.


Well, actually it had been suggested to me to post the text right here, but the text was never meant as a "review" but always and from the start it had been intended as an essay on certain aspects of the game, in answer to certain points of criticisms.
I know quite well how to write a "proper" review and I think proved this elsewhere, but since I had not intended this text to be one, I see no reason to change my orignal intention and change the text accordingly, because this would be a completely different text altogether. My intention was to bring up a philosophic aspect here. If you find me a better place to post this, I will consider to do so. A suggestion would be much appreciated. I quite agree that for somebody interested in technical questions as setup time etc., my text does not give any answers, and you should better look up a full game review.
I am glad, however, and since you brought the subject up, that you do not doubt my intelligence.

The Others does, indeed, take a somewhat longer setup time, we find setup longer than for games like e.g. Massive Darkness. It is, in fact, a very strategic and very hard to win game that we usually lose but enjoy it every the time, despite oor maybe even bacause of that. It depends on the strategic talent of the sin player, I guess. It also depends on how well your group is able to cooperate. The game is unforgiving if you make mistakes. You really need to keep alert and concentrate very well, because there are many consideration you have to take into accout at the same time. This concerns movement - your character's, the other characters and also your enemies' movements - as well as managing your level of corruption. Your character can die faster than you think.
In order to play well, it takes some practise, at least it did with our group. It has a definite learning curve, but calling it a "steep" curve would give the wrong impression that you can do it in a nick of time. It is a game you have to play fairly regularly in order to fully enjoy it. For our group, we find it hard to say how long it takes; we had to break up sessions because we ran out of time, on other occasions we all died in no time at all and re-started after just half an hour. If you play, you must be ready and able to deal with frustration. Personally, I find it about as difficult as Descent or Perdition's Mouth, but there it also depends on who plays what and how well they plan their strategies. Nevertheless I have more fun playing The Others. It is definitely on the opposite side of a quick and easy game, which can be fun, too. So The Others is more for those who like the heavier, darker games.
Hope that helps you decide!
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Erik Hatinen
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Good to hear, and I did check out a review by the handle name He Said, She Said. Their joint review suggests I'd like it, were it not for a huge stumbling block: I would be the only player.

I assumed your text was a review because it's in the Review section, but I hadn't noticed until I read your last post that your thread title doesn't call it a review. And I agree that the review section is the best place to discuss the themes and feel of Others.

Your review suggests good things to me. I'd like this game for its theme and game mechanics, but it sounds like a game you can't play as a one player game.
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Martina Frohme
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Tsallak wrote:
(...) I'd like it, were it not for a huge stumbling block: I would be the only player.
(...)

Your review suggests good things to me. I'd like this game for its theme and game mechanics, but it sounds like a game you can't play as a one player game.


Well, unfortunately the game does not have a solo mode. I am not sure if you could somehow "houserule" a solo mode into it. I can't see how this could work. It takes at least one player who plays one character fighting against the "Others" and another one on the opposite side, namely the sin player. These cannot be impersonated by the same individual, because the whole thing only works when one does not now what the other is really thinking/planning. And also, a nuber of heroes can hardly stand their ground, so how could a single one?

The game is explicitly designed to create the sensation of impending doom and destruction, where you have to fight against all hopes, defiant till the bitter end - or maybe final victory which is possible (but unlikely).

Is there no game group you could join forces with? If you have the time and space to host, you could try finding fellow players on Meetup. Start your own Meetup group. We partly organise our game nights via Meetup, that is where we "recruit" about one third of our gamers.

Good luck!
 
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Erik Hatinen
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I don't have anyone else to play anything with. It stinks and I've wanted to fix that for at least a decade.

I'm remarkably socially isolated. I live in an Assisted Living center (a step up from a homeless shelter), and to say the people there don't share my interests would be like saying the ocean is damp. The most common topics of conversation are football, crimes they've committed (almost everyone but me is an ex gang member), pornography and pro wrestling. Only the first holds any interest to me, and not nearly to the extent they show. Every over weekend I spend a few days with my folks, and the talks with them and at our church are a breath of fresh air.

I don't have web access at home, and my cell phone is one that only makes and receives calls and texts. This eliminates using phone apps and online ads for players.

I've wanted to find players for board games and/or role-playing games for at least a decade, but have had miserable luck. During that decade, I only found two groups at my nearby game store, and one group seemingly disappeared almost immediately after they said they'd be happy to have me. I know role playing groups routinely vanish, and that seems to be what happened with them. The other mystified me, as I was told they moved their games elsewhere and never told. I don't know if they didn't want another player but didn't want to tell me, if I offended one of them somehow or what. A gigantic stumbling block for me is that the people who have the interests I do seem to no longer use phones and now apparently even texts.

I won't be able to play this game, then. That stinks but it's understandable. I have no way of splitting my brain into two independent ones.
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Martina Frohme
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That is sad to hear. I know it is not so easy to start a game group. You mentioned church. For us, when our board game cafe - the only existing one in our town, and at least officially the second last existing one in Gemany - disappeared just as suddenly without explanation or prior warning, we felt pretty much grounded. (BTW, those people still have some of my stuff that I had left at the place and which disappeared, too.) So for us, our local parish offered a solution, and we can use their rooms for our game nights without charge under the condition that we allow other people to join in and guarantee we and a minimum of games will be there. (You can maybe read my article on our website www.diceandmystics.de sometime if you like.) Maybe you can strike a deal with your church, too? We started with just 3 people, and now we even host large events. If you can, you can announce that on Meetup. It sometimes takes time until you get it up and running, but there is always hope.
 
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Erik Hatinen
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I can only go to church every other weekend because my church is quite far from me (20 miles or 32 km).

The nearby churches are not to my liking. There are something like six within walking distance for me, but they are universally too loud for me. I have Asperger's and an ear infection when I was a few weeks old made what I call a noise allergy much worse than it would have been otherwise.
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Martina Frohme
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Gosh and golly - this is the 3rd time I am typing an answer, and everytime I'm halfway through, I lose the Internet. This time it seems to work. So here goes:

I understand you very well when you say that 20 miles is quite a way and you only go to the church that you like every 2 weeks.

Still, I do not think that it is impossible to start up a game group at a community hall every two weeks. One of the oldest and largest game clubs I know (they even have their own both at the Spiel Essen) meet every two weeks, and they even play one hour less than we do.

We meet on a weekly basis, from 5 to 11 p. m., and we started some 4 or 5 years ago with as little as 3 people meeting up to play a few rounds. Now we are usually between 10 and 20 or over.

The crucial point is whether or not the parish will let you have a room for your game nights. We are lucky, they let us have any room we need (depending on how large the group is that particular night) and for free. The deal is that we promise to be there and have enough games so that anybody who wants to join is will find a place and someone to play with.

We are officially listed as volunteer workers of the parish because we provide a chance for everybody to enjoy the hobby, no matter who they are or whether they have money and/or games of their own. We can use all facilities, get help if we need any and also have insurance. All we really do is come to the community hall every week, bring and play games and have fun.

So what you have to do is to "sell" them the idea as a social activity you are offering, something that enriches the variety of things that the parish can offer to the people. Because that's exactly what it is! One of our most convincing arguments is that we offer a hobby that is free of charge, social, cooperative, communicative, age independent, intelligent, inclusive and fun, all in a smoke free, alcohol free and secure environment.

Our group (we are not a "club" of any kind and do not have any "members" or fees or anything of that kind) is special because we have about 50 % women, we have gamers aged 13 to 66, and we also have gamers with Asperger's and people with hearing or other problems. They all play together and enjoy the calm and friendly atmosphere that is so pleasantly different from playing your games at a table in a restaurant or pub. This is why they are coming to us. And the parish shows us off as a shining example!

Maybe you can start something like our "Dice & Mystics" up as well, who knows? When the three of us went there to ask if we could come and play, we had but little hope and almost expected to hear a no. And now we have a website and host regualar game nights and events.
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Judgement Dave
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Arboretum wrote:

Well, unfortunately the game does not have a solo mode. I am not sure if you could somehow "houserule" a solo mode into it.

Somebody did do a variant where the Sin was automated to allow solo/co-op play. IIRC the files are in the BGG files section - if not they must just be linked from a thread in the variants section.

I've never really looked at it too much, as I already had some thoughts written for my own solo mode (which is yet a WIP).

BTW - Is The Others a good game to try selling a church on? I'd have thought the fact that somebody has to play as the embodiment of a sin (and could well win) might not go down too well.
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Martina Frohme
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Well, it's "just a game".

That said, it is a game about fighting evil. The church/our church is cool with all our monsters and necromancers and zombies, and Cthulhu, and all the magic going on in our games. No problem there. No actual necromancy or magic going on, just a form of storytelling, a bit like in fairy tales, really.

The Others is even more appropriate for a church environment than e.g. Zombicide, which is just for fun. At least it takes matters very seriously and shows evil as evil, not as something attractive in any way. This is a point I wanted to make in my essay. It is like playing Mephisto in Goethe's Faust, or playing the devil in a Mystery play, as an actor. Playing a devil or a sin does by no means signify that you want to be or even be like any one of these agents or to actually represent the concept they stand for. You play this role to provide a background for the story of humanity fighting back that darkness and striving towards a higher plane of existence, still striving for redemption even when they have already been corrupted to some extent. Also the semi-human characters only help to accentuate the concept of being humane, beyond the shallow surface of physical appearance.

Edit:

As an afterthought and in reply to your initial bit of information: The solo variant, if it exists and works, and that seems to be tha case, is certainly interesting. Well worth some further investigation.
But despite of everything I just said, The Others is not a game I would like to play solo. I also would not want to play a Sin either, as I'd already said in my essay. Not everyone is up to that, and certainly not me.

Just speaking for myself there.


 
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Your suggestion to ask my church if it would host a game night is a good one, and I never thought a church would do something like that. In my teenage years (late 80s and early 90s) it was still widely 'known' that many games (especially role-playing games) are evil, but that was over 20 years ago now. In the meantime, quite a few types of games either grew up or developed other lines that were more mature. Video games are no longer just for kids and role-playing games became far more than just finding a random monster and killing it. While far from everyone plays or played such games, a great many people know someone who does or did, and they're no more likely than frequent book readers to be shunned weirdos.

Your note was encouraging, too. I personally have Asperger's and my ears are especially vulnerable, because I have Asperger's and had a nearly lethal ear infection when less than a month old. When I'm hit with an especially powerful high-pitched sound like a smoke alarm or brakes in need of oiling, I am literally too much pain to see. I've never timed that part of a bout of what I call a noise allergy. I do know that the time period that sometimes follows when I'm too weak to stand up can last for up to 50 minutes. I've also been stabbed twice, though never by someone who wanted to kill me and also knew what he was doing. For me, a powerful shrill noise is far less pleasant, though I certainly recover from the noise faster.

I won't try using my church as a game site, because I know no one who would be willing to drive me so far out of town for such a purpose. I can't even find someone willing to drive me there for Bible studies. But I do have a good alternative. There is a game store well within walking distance of where I live. I can make myself a note to call the place and find out if any game groups meet there now, or how I could go about finding other players. There used to be a Monday night group for board games, and I suspect more than a few of them didn't suddenly discover a TV that simply had to be watched or another reason to stop going.
 
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